Ever since ye olde times of boom boxes and leg warmers, the kids have just wanted to dance and the parentals have been trying to stop them.
Since 2006, this timeless struggle between good and evil has been chronicled by the Step Up franchise, with its interchangeable young actors and plots that barely differ from film to film.
Step Up 4: Miami Heat stars Kathryn McCormick (of US reality show So You Think You Can Dance) as Emily, a poor little rich girl who falls for oily-torsoed flash-mobber Sean (Ryan Guzman). Sean is from the wrong side of the tracks, so when daddy decides to buy up everything located on said wrong side, and turn it into a hotel complex, it’s a problem.
A problem, clearly, that only crunking can solve. The flash mob theme is about four years past its sell-by-date, but it does allow for the incorporation of some fun heist-genre elements. ‘The Mob’ plan their impromptu dance spectacles with the precision of bank robbers (cue montage) and every member of the crew – which includes a mute graffiti artist and two parkour specialists– gets his/her own Ocean’s Eleven-style introduction.
It’s a parade of actors so unrelentingly bland your brain’s ability to distinguish faces will be entirely eroded by Act 2. Luckily you don’t come to a Step Up movie to spot the next Streep. The choreography is fresh enough, including an art-referencing sequence set at a gallery opening.
Less successful is the attempt to depict The Mob as the body-popping wing of the Occupy movement. “Enough with performance art, it’s time for protest art!” announces Emily in one rousing scene. It’s true, one of the baddies is a dead ringer for shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, but that’s probably just a coincidence (right?).
Ultimately, we remain unconvinced of Step Up’s anti-capitalist credentials. Especially after that hilariously inept Nike plug in the final scene.
3D has been kind to teen dance flicks and Step Up 4’s better set-pieces take full advantage. Shame the movie’s other attempts to tango with the zeitgeist are rather more flat-footed.